LFF 2022: Women Talking – Review

Release Date – 10th February 2023, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Sarah Polley

After a series of severe sexual assaults a group of women discuss whether to leave or stay in their Amish commune.

Amongst the various moments of shock within Women Talking is perhaps the reminder of the outside world, and the sense of hope that it provides. Much of the film takes place within the confines of the upper level of a barn within an enclosed Amish community. The conversation between the various women of the community is interrupted with a jolt as the thoughts of conflicting hope and fear truly begin to circle round their minds, and those of the audience. The purpose for their meeting is to decide whether to stay in or leave their commune after a series of severe sexual assaults and abuse from the men. Determination and worry flies around the space as thoughts and opinions conflict not just from person to person but personally for some characters. Do they stay and do nothing, continuing to be abused and mistreated, or do they leave into an uncertain, unfamiliar world they’ve never properly encountered.

We’re promised in the opening titles that “what follows is a fiction of female imagination”. One which feels carefully considered and constructed having been developed for some time. Largely coming through in the dialogue of writer-director Sarah Polley’s screenplay (adapted from Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name). It’s also thanks to Polley’s direction that things manage to avoid feeling as if they might as well be played out on the stage. It’s in some of the asides outside of the integral barn, the glimpses of the children playing outside and indications that this discussion can’t just be kept within the assigned meeting space.

The dialogue is finely delivered by a strong ensemble cast, with Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy being particularly prominent – Foy especially seems to be going for an Oscar. As things come together and properly start rolling after seeing the vote which leads to the discussion occurring in the first place (when its result ends in a draw) it’s the performances that act as the initial continuing hook as the characters themselves try to find a starting place. However, once the initial point is brought up things continue rolling for the duration of the film. Occasionally you may wish for certain points to be looked into a bit more, however there’s no denying the focus that the film has in the direct manner in which it tells its story, including in the moments that don’t at least have a spoken debate being seen and heard.

The direct method helps to keep track of the many points and opinions which are brought up in the 104-minute run-time. It’s shown just how much has been covered in the final stages as where, while feeling slightly busy with having to wrap multiple elements up, certainly manages to have an impact, making the most of the setting and environment outside of the barn while still keeping a sense of control. There’s a lot to engage with along the way in the build-up to these events, and indeed this might be a film that rewards a re-watched for the dramatic push that it holds and just how much it covers. Especially when it comes to the way that it uses the external environment and how actions on the Amish land, outside of the barn, impact the debate within the confines of the core building. It’s quietly and effectively done and you almost don’t notice it. Adding to the overall push of the engaging drama which plays out within the strong performances of the ensemble cast who truly capture the words and elements of Polley’s screenplay.

There’s a lot going on within Women Talking, and what truly lifts it, bringing the feeling it’s made for the screen, are the asides of the external environment. Lifted by Polley’s direction and a strong ensemble cast a re-watch may bring even more to engage with and witness in this highly considered drama.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2 thoughts on “LFF 2022: Women Talking – Review

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate this, pushing me towards the new year with a good frame of mind. Hope that you enjoy it when it does come around.

      Liked by 1 person

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